But the top committee Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, raised concerns because the bill eliminates a requirement that people apply for asylum within a year of arriving in the country, and allows new applications from those whose cases have been unsuccessful because they didn't comply with the one-year bar to reapply. Napolitano said that nothing in the bill would weaken asylum procedures.
Authors of the bill, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have said they're open to changes in the legislation should any issues come to light in the wake of the Boston situation.
So far, though, there have been no obvious flaws exposed in the immigration system by the Boston events that aren't already addressed in the bill. The FBI apparently missed a trip to Russia by one of the suspected Boston bombers last year because his name was misspelled on a travel document, but that would be fixed in the bill because passports would be swiped electronically, not entered manually as now happens, Schumer said.
Napolitano disclosed Tuesday that despite the misspelling, the Homeland Security Department had known of the Russia trip because of "redundancies" in the system, but she praised the new electronic entry-exist system proposed in the bill. "It really does a good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process," she said.
Schumer and three other authors of the immigration bill sit on the Judiciary Committee, and they repeatedly elicited Napolitano's praise for security enhancements in the bill. She found less to agree on with some Republicans on the panel, who questioned her claims that border security had already been improved under the Obama administration and that the bill would do even more.
"I'm concerned that the bill we're discussing repeats the mistakes of the past and won't secure the border and stop the flow of illegal migration," said Grassley. He contended that the border security provisions in the bill don't amount to much because millions would get a provisional legal status once the Homeland Security Department has completed plans aimed at enhancing border security and fencing, even if the plans are flawed or inadequate.
"If enacted today, the bill would provide no pressure on this secretary or even any future secretary to secure the borders," Grassley contended.
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